Have you decided to be a speech pathologist? That is great! Most speech language pathologists (SLPs) have an interesting career dealing with a variety of problems, conditions, and patients. The job outlook for a career as an SLP is extremely bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports 27% growth in SLP job outlook through the year 2028, which is much higher than other industries.
If you’ve done some research, you’ve likely discovered that in the United States a master’s degree is required in all 50 states for those who want to legally practice as an SLP. However, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) reports that more than 300 colleges and universities offer both undergraduate and graduate degree programs for professionals interested in an SPL career.
Educational Path for an SPL
Those who desire to be an SLP are most commonly going to be pursuing a degree in communication sciences and disorders (CSD). A CSD degree track is also used for those interested in being an audiologist or a speech, language and hearing scientist.
Undergraduate Education: A bachelor’s degree in CSD is the most common first step to becoming an SPL, but it is not required for entry into a master’s level CSD program. If a student does have a different bachelor’s degree, there will be extra prerequisite coursework required of them before they would be eligible for entry into a CSD master’s program.
Students with an undergraduate education in CSD may also pursue master’s degrees in healthcare, education, science, or public policy. Occasionally, bachelor’s CSD programs prepare students to work as audiology or SPL assistants, allow them to begin working in the industry before their master’s education is complete.
Graduate Education: To be an SLP, a professional must graduate from an accredited master of science in speech language pathology program. Students must also pass an ASHA certification exam, the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). The average length of this master’s program is two years. As with most degrees, there is also the option of speech therapy master’s programs online. This option is especially nice for those who may already have found work as an SLP assistant, as the online schedule often allows students to continue working.
The following image details the three different tracks a student has once they’ve completed an undergraduate education in CSD. Note that a PhD is not required for practice, though many students choose to continue on to achieve one.
Master’s in Speech Language Pathology
As with a bachelor’s program, ensure that the schools you are applying to are accredited and certified by ASHA. The best accreditation comes from The Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). Programs with this accreditation are going to best prepare you for the CCC-SLP exam and SLP practice. The CAA accredits both brick and mortar programs and online programs.
While specific speech pathology graduate school acceptance rates are difficult to find (unless you are looking at a particular school), multiple sources report that admissions for SLP master’s programs are extremely competitive.
Typical requirements for admission include:
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 3.00 – most programs average GPA for acceptance is much higher
- Transcript copies
- Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are factored in but are given different “weight” depending on the program
- An admissions essay, personal statement or biosketch
- Letters of recommendation
Master’s in SLP programs usually include foundational courses, practice dealing directly with language disorders, clinical practicum experiences, and elective courses. Students should expect an accumulation of anatomy and physiology knowledge related to speech, swallowing, and audiology (motor speech disorders), language development and early intervention, the science and management of dysphagia, neurology for speech and language, and problem-solving, care planning, and decision-making related to speech and language disorders.
Before being eligible for graduation, students must complete 400 hours of supervised clinical experience. At least 375 hours must be spent in direct client/patient contact. ASHA has no specification related to number of hours which much be spent treating or managing each disorder, however different programs or states regulatory agencies may have more specific requirements.
Beginning in January 2020, the eligibility requirements for practicum experiences and the CCC-SLP examination are going to change. During graduate school, students should not begin their clinical practicum (the 400 hours) experience until all of their graduate course work has been completed. If the practicum experience is started before all of their course work is finished, those 400 hours will not apply towards the 1,260 hours needed for CCC-SLP certification.
Visit here for more details about the CCC-SLP requirements, both before and after January 2020.
A Future as an SLP
One of the most integral parts of being human is the ability to communicate and build relationships with each other. As an SLP, you will be intimately privileged to help grow, maintain, restore and grant this skill to others. Though the road to SLP graduation and certification is competitive and includes hundreds of hours of work, there are hundreds of schools with master’s programs available to assist you in your pursuit of this promising and worthy career.
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